Places of the Heart: Memorials, Public History and the State in Australia Since 1960

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Paul Ashton
Paula Hamilton


Memorials as a form of public history allow us to chart the complex interactions and negotiations between officially endorsed historical narratives, public memorials, privately sponsored memorials in public spaces and new histories. As Ludmilla Jordanova reminds us, ‘the state… lies at the heart of public history’. And this is evident in the public process of memorialisation. At one level, the state endorses certain narratives within which communities and organisations need to operate if they are to be officially part of the national story and its regional and local variants. Ultimate endorsement for memorials includes listings on heritage registers. Controls over the erection of memorials vary from official policies to process for the issue of permits for their construction in public places or their removal. The state, however, is not monolithic. Permissible pasts evolve over time given shifts in power and social and cultural change. This involves both ‘retrospective commemoration’ and ‘participatory memorialisation’. The presence and power of the past in peoples’ lives, too, means in practice that memorial landscapes will reflect, in truly democratic societies, the values, experiences and dominant concerns of its citizens.

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Author Biographies

Paul Ashton, University of Technology, Sydney

Paul Ashton is Associate Professor of Public History and Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology, Sydney. He is co-editor (with Hilda Kean) of People and their Past: Public History Today (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan).

Paula Hamilton, University of Technology, Sydney

Paula Hamilton is Associate Professor of History at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is co-editor of Oral History and Public Memory (Temple University Press).